BLOG

Cloud Cover

On the site today…

Your weekly comics from Jog, in which he deals with the issue of weight in comics. Or heavy comics. Something heavy!

And Rob Clough reviews Keith Knight’s Too Small to Fail.

The big “elsewhere” news is Grant Morrison’s unintentionally hilarious interview with Rolling Stone. Morrison, who really does believe the hype (in his book, Supergods, he plays himself as a brilliant hero of comics, always at the ready to tap into the zeitgeist) loves to make big statements, like this doozy about his favorite hobby horse, Alan Moore:

We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!

This is right after [update for clarity/boneheadedness] on the heels of his defense, in Supergods, of the now infamous rape-scene-as-plot device in Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, which he calls “Joycean,” “heart stopping,” and “orchestral”. Seriously. I will admit, as Morrison totally predicted (tra la la, we’re all pretty predictable), that I found Supergods mostly not so great. Not because I didn’t understand what he was trying to do (superheroes as modern myth, how the genre can have personal meaning) — I did. I even fully go in for the idea that there’s great life in the genre and that fantastic work has been and will be made. And on some subjects Morrison is great. His explanations of what makes Jim Starlin, Don McGregor, and other writers of the 1970s great is smart and concise. And his description of Image Comics and its place in the larger culture is the best I’ve ever read. But too often it comes back to new age silliness (Captain Marvel as “alchemical” hero) and self-aggrandization (his relative fame, his oedipus complex with Moore) and then, finally, a long patch where he reels off his fave superhero movies (he was the only guy that liked Daredevil! Cool!). It is also is a book profoundly ignorant and dismissive of the actual circumstances under which his favorite toys were created, and the fates of the toymakers. That said, I think it’s especially ironic that in the interview he randomly harps on Chris Ware and TCJ (of course he’s right that we are smart asses) in economic/class terms. For someone so interested in class and vibes and making the world a better place, one might ask: Gee, Grant, what have you done to help out the economic situations of creators whose shoulders you stand on? Oh right. Nothing. [update: Not that this matters -- critiquing art by arguing that an artist should drop the thing you disapprove of and go do something you do approve of is inane. But Morrison brought it up, so why not go down his logic road?]. Here’s the beauty:

I can appreciate someone like Chris Ware for his artistry, which I think is beautiful, but I think his attitude stinks, it just seems to be the attitude of somebody really privileged, and honestly, try living here, try living on an Indian reservation and shut up, and really seeing all that nihilistic stuff, it really makes me angry, it’s unhelpful to all of us, and it’s coming from people who have money and success to talk  like that and bring those aspects of the way we live in favor of all the  others, and it’s indefensible.

So I never liked that stuff, I  always thought that I had a real Scottish working class thing against  the fact that these were done by privileged American college kids, and  they were telling me the world was flat. “You’re telling me the world is  flat, pal?” And it’s not helpful, it doesn’t get us anywhere. OK, so it  is, then what? What are you going to do about it, college kid? My book wasn’t academic. I can’t take on those Comics Journal guys, they flattened me, as they did, it’s just defensive, smartass kids.

My favorite thing about the above is that he assumes Ware (and I suppose Clowes, whose Death Ray, arguably the seminal superhero comic of the last decade, Morrison ignores in his history of superhero comics), Brown, et al are somehow rich college kids looking down at him and casting bad vibes his way. This coming from the guy who endorsed superhero rape in his superhero history. Bad vibes I guess are only ok if they involve Elongated Man? Grant, baby, it’s not a class thing and it’s not about nihilism. It’s just a different, more complex worldview, that’s all. Plus, his assessment of Ware’s work simply shows he hasn’t read it. Morrison is too smart to have read it and come away with that conclusion. And TCJ certainly hasn’t flattened him. In fact, aside from a brief mention from Tim, Supergods hasn’t been covered here yet. But we did cover, at length, and positively, The Invisibles. Alas.

Anyhow, that interview is just plain sad. Morrison’s a creative guy who has written some excellent comics, but here and in Supergods he seems out of touch, casting about, and adrift in what he more or less admits is his most sustained creation: The character of “Grant Morrison” itself.


23 Responses to Cloud Cover

  1. Alex says:

    For all this fun sniping, no one HAS brought up Batman Incorporated #7 which is the only bit of pop culture which covered life on Indian Reservations. Grant Morrison mentioned it as the alternative to Chris Ware’s topics, and I don’t think I’ve seen the subject covered in the usually stark and unflinching alternative scene.

  2. Frank Santoro says:

    Captain Jack Sparrow responds to Mr. Morrison for Frank. “But you have heard of me…” (smile)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQf-zYn5TJE

    And I didn’t go to college. Is it obvious?

  3. Kim Thompson says:

    I may be wrong, but I’m not entirely sure Morrison is taking a shot at THE COMICS JOURNAL per se here, it looks to me like he’s finishing his thought about Chris Ware et al. as “COMICS JOURNAL kids,” i.e. the whole group of alternative cartoonists championed by the JOURNAL whom mainstream guys tend to wad into one big wax ball of resentment. My recollection is that he was always treated respectfully by the JOURNAL. Certainly he wrote the only Marvel comic of the last two decades that I got so enthusiastic about I would actually buy it at the store (THE NEW X-MEN).

  4. Alex Ryking says:

    This article is a hot mess. The author veers all over the place, sneering at Morrison for calling Ware and TCJ out only to agree that they are “smart asses” and that Morrison is basically right in calling them out, then takes issue with the manner in which Morrison did so. Then the author falsely claims that Morrison endorses superhero rape when the Rolling Stone interview the author linked to clearly indicates otherwise (see a write-up on Morrison’s disgust with the rape scene in Identity Crisis and his comments to Rolling Stone about it here: http://bit.ly/pDJ8zV). Finally, the author uses parentheses in parentheses, which is incorrect punctuation.

    Way to make a bad first impression, TCJ.

  5. DanielT says:

    Is there some second, phantom RS interview floating out there?

    This is right after his defense of the now infamous rape-scene-as-plot device in Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer, which he calls “Joycean,” “heart stopping,” and “orchestral”.

    Does he use those three adjectives to describe the rape scene or Identity Crisis itself? It sounds like he does this in the RS interview but such a desciption is nowhere to be found. Is it actually in Supergods? Clearer writing, please!

    As far as the Ware criticism goes, if that quote had come from some random UK cultural studies professor instead of Morrison would it have still seemed so wrong? As much as I like the works of the “Comics Journal kids,” it hasn’t escaped my notice in recent years of how bourgeois their themes and subject matter are. Of course, the guilt I started developing a while ago over my own middle-class complacency probably has something to do with that view.

  6. Alixopulos says:

    It might. I would think it equally lame if a UK cultural studies professor said it instead of Grant Morrison.

    It’s totally fine to just not like Chris Ware. I’d rather not consider the neuroses that one has to have to adopt this corrupt, content-free class critique to justify not-liking him.

    As if superhero comics are some kind of vanguard for working people!

  7. Alixopulos says:

    …I agree the prose in this update could use some clarity. Looking at the interview GM’s thing about Ware reads pretty unserious and tossed off, but it’s just irksome to read someone as obviously literate and critical as GM putting his thumb on the scale so transparently.

  8. Yeah, I wouldn’t call myself a Ware fan, exactly (Lint was my first book of his, barring an aborted attempt at Jimmy Corrigan), but Lint knocked my socks off and gave me all types of funny feelings about the beauty and futility of life. It’s way, way more than the navel-gazing nihilism Morrison suggests it is. His statement is as dumb as what superhero fans use to dismiss alt comix (is that still the word for non-cape comics?) and vice versa. It’s all lines on a page, baby.

    He should be smarter than that interview suggests.

  9. Kim Thompson says:

    I have to say, I ultimately find Dan’s attempted takedown of Morrison about as unconvincing as Morrison’s attempted takedowns of Chris Ware and Alan Moore, all of which seem to be more rationalizations for a visceral dislike (one which I understand in Moore’s case is mutual) than any kind of judicious appraisal (cf. Dan’s odd claim that Morrison defended the Meltzer rape scene, when he explicitly denounced it and then praised Meltzer’s work DESPITE it). Sorry, Dan!

    I love many of what Morrison considers the bourgeois-narcissist cartoonists from Chris Ware on down, but Morrison makes a not-unreasonable point that given the very real horrors and injustices of the world, autobiographical graphic novels about being socially maladjusted and sad, by and about members of one of the most advantaged and comfortable classes/societies this globe has ever seen, can ultimately wear thin. (Although maybe these cartoonists shouldn’t be called out by someone who, I’m guessing, makes more money than all of them combined at this point.)

    Morrison’s concerns about Moore’s liberal use of rape as a character-slash-plot device can be argued one way or the other, but I would hope less glibly than was done here (again by both sides). I genuinely love most of Moore’s work, but there is sometimes a studied transgressiveness that can veer into the repugnant and opportunistic (THE KILLING JOKE). Zack Snyder’s WATCHMEN is gross in its sadism not so much because he betrayed Moore, but because Moore took it right up to the edge and Snyder, either because of the less abstract nature of film or because of his own innate tastelessness, toppled over that edge.

    • michael L says:

      When Dan or Grant try to unpack their visceral dislike of someone’s work, is that process necessarily a rationalization? Even a casual, visceral impression can’t be fully arbitrary. And I think it’s hasty to say that an appraisal in this mode is inherently any less judicious

    • steven samuels says:

      “I love many of what Morrison considers the bourgeois-narcissist cartoonists from Chris Ware on down, but Morrison makes a not-unreasonable point that given the very real horrors and injustices of the world, autobiographical graphic novels about being socially maladjusted and sad, by and about members of one of the most advantaged and comfortable classes/societies this globe has ever seen, can ultimately wear thin”

      ************************************

      Yeah, Morrison does have a point. Nevermind the world’s problems. The narrow-bored solipsism one finds in Ware, Brunetti, Clowes et al is more than a little problematic in and of itself. If the goal of lit comics for the past few decades has been to match the best novels, then they’ve by and large missed the point. Classic novels, or classic stories in general, have wit, humor, irony, a bit of everything. They have the world in them. I like a lot of what Ware’s done quite a bit, but the obsession with alienated losers is a dead end in every way imaginable. I’d say we’re still quite a ways away before we can say American comics are completely grown up.

      Haven’t read Supergods and have no plans to, but those RS interviews were a lot of fun. Morrison has written more than his fair share of shite. But then again, a handful of stories he’s done are probably among the best of the past few decades.

      I should say, if ever in the future there’s an artist that could successfully combine Ware’s attention to detail with Morrison’s vigorous whimsy, then that would really be something…….

      • Luther Blissett says:

        “…..if ever in the future there’s an artist that could successfully combine Ware’s attention to detail with Morrison’s vigorous whimsy, then that would really be something…….”

        Try Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. IMHO the best work both have done.

  10. patrick ford says:

    Alan Moore reminds me of that old Led Zeppelin movie called “The Song Remains the Same.”

  11. David Kilmer says:

    Morrison is doing a book tour. Isn’t it likely that he is being deliberately provocative for PR purposes, with perhaps a little help from a Rolling Stone editor?

  12. I wonder how much of what people are reading is actually there and how much of it is self-invented baggage unique to quotes from Grant Morrison.

  13. MZA says:

    “Grant, baby, it’s not a class thing and it’s not about nihilism. It’s just a different, more complex worldview, that’s all.”

    Listen to yourself. I like Ware, but I do see GM’s point about the prevailing attitude in Ware’s work — his characters are shy and depressed people, or bitter people lashing out, whose universe drops them crumbs of hope followed by tsunamis of pain. GM’s work is a lot less consistently good than CW’s, but his characters have the potential for action that might transform their universe to an extent that CW’s do not. You might argue that one approach is more complex than the other, but you’d actually have to argue that, not just assume it’s self-evident. To me, the opposition is reductive and not that interesting: a worldview that doesn’t use both a GM-like lens and a CW-like lens isn’t seeing in 3D.

    –mza.

    • MRosa says:

      “GM’s work is a lot less consistently good than CW’s, but his characters have the potential for action that might transform their universe to an extent that CW’s do not.”

      I think it comes down to what you believe fiction can achieve. If you think fiction can change, improve people, then you’ll probably agree with Morrison about the pointlessness of writing depressing stories without solutions.

      If you think fiction can’t, then Morrison’s tirades seem very naive. I’ve read many great writers declare they don’t believe their work can improve people or change the world. Nabokov even warns readers against trying to relate to or identify with characters.

      Morrison attacks Ware for not offering solutions, but what has Morrison offered? Has he changed the world with his comics? Or merely entertained a handful of people over the years?

      Ware is very good at capturing the isolation and helplessness many people feel in the modern world. I think there’s something of great value in that because even though we are sad and lonely we try to pretend we’re not. And we need artists to remind us with brutal honesty that, yes, we are. In a way, Morrison just participates in the escapism in which people hide from the misery of their lives.

  14. Matt Miller says:

    I think the real core issue here is that Morrison’s become the most stalwart defender of DC’s publishing decisions and its dubious history with creators. And, on some level, I can understand that–he’s arguably their highest paid writer, they give him all sorts of editorial freedom on licensed titles (seriously, would anybody else get away with SEVEN SOLDIERS?), and the chance to run creator-owned stuff through Vertigo. DC treats him well, and a certain level of defensiveness to criticisms of them is to be expected, I guess. So, if he’s going to toe the company line on Identity Crisis, or take their side in the Alan Moore schism, fine. I don’t agree, but fine. When it comes to defending DC on matters of taste, if I disagree with him, it doesn’t effect my enjoyment of his work (and I enjoy most of it A LOT).

    But when it comes to his take on Siegel and Shuster’s relationship with DC (recounted in the early goings of SUPERGODS), he crosses a line. Siding with a company over the basic rights of your fellow creators and forebears is distasteful, to say the least.

    • Luther Blissett says:

      If your looking for the leftist Grant Morrison, he was last seen on Sept 16th 2001 when he blogged :

      “Islamic Fundamentalists will kill anyone and anything in the name of religious JIHAD. Capitalist Fundamentalists will kill anyone and anything in the name of MONEY. No difference AT ALL. [...] American presidents should really stop bullying and brutalising weaker and more primitive nations. It doesn’t look good on the CV.”

      That blog post quickly came down because, according to his partner, “about fifty people wrote in some supporting, some very strongly against and threatening all sorts, ‘We won’t buy your comics again’, retailers pulling out, not selling his comics.”

      After that Morrison has never again strayed from being a good liberal (of the ‘corporate new age’ variety). His New X-men run even had Wolverine lopping off a Talib’s hand to save burka’d women while Professor X telepathically stopped Islamic hijackers.

      His passage on Siegel and Shuster is not so much pro-company as ‘fair and balanced’ – just as any liberal must be in order to keep working in the American media. It is ‘distasteful’ but the new norm.

      If you want -real- scum try Trey Parker during the writer’s strike. Morrison will always be one level above that.

  15. David Groenewegen says:

    I’m bemused by Morrison’s claims that he managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape. I assume these thirty years occurred before he wrote The Invisibles, or that he was so high when he wrote it that he’s forgotten it all. Because there are many, many rapes in there, plus plenty of other nasty stuff.

  16. Robert G says:

    Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
    Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

    -The Big Lebowski

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>